His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, has issued formally the new guidelines for Communion under both kinds (CUBK) in that diocese. There has been a lot of controversy about these local norms.
It was trumpeted by liberals that Bp. Olmsted was taking “the wine” or “the cup” away from people. It seems to me that they were more afraid that there would be fewer lay people going up into the sanctuary than they were about having CUBK. I get the impression sometimes that they are like the kid who sees the shiny thing and wants that shiny thing no matter what and that she then screams and stomps until she gets it. But I digress.
Now that the Bishop has officially issued norms, people in some quarters are saying that he has backed down, that he has caved in, that he has come around after his poor leadership, etc.
As I read his norms, I am struck again by what first struck me about his efforts concerning CUBK: he is mainly concerned with making sure the Church‘s norms are followed and that CUBK be both reverent and spiritually fruitful.
So, the most important part of Bp. Olmsted’s norms is not the list of occasions when CUBK can be distributed. The most important part of the norms is the clear explanation of the CONDITIONS for CUBK. Here are those conditions.
As you read them, it seems to be useful to ponder whether they are actually being followed, are in place, where CUBK is presently offered:
B. Conditions for the use of Holy Communion under both kinds:
i. The faithful present at Mass are properly catechized and continually receive catechesis regarding the dogmatic principles on the matter laid down by the Ecumenical Council of Trent.1
ii. The ordinary ministers (i.e., priests and deacons) are able to purify all the sacred vessels either during or immediately following Dismissal of the people at the conclusion of the Mass.2
iii. There exists not even a small danger of the sacred species being profaned.3
iv. There is not such a large number of communicants that it is difficult to gauge the amount of wine for the Eucharist. There is no danger that more than a reasonable quantity of the Blood of Christ remains after distribution of Holy Communion.
v. There is an adequate number of ordinary ministers of Holy Communion for the distribution of Holy Communion.4 When this is not the case, there is an adequate number of properly deputed and trained extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.5
vi. The role of the Priest and Deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion is not obscured by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion; the bond between the ministerial priesthood and the Eucharist is clearly manifest.6
vii. There are no health concerns such as influenza or some other contagious disease that would deter the faithful from approaching the chalice.
viii. “The chalice should not be ministered to lay members of Christ’s faithful where…a notable part of the people continues to prefer not to approach the chalice for various reasons, so that the sign of unity would in some sense be negated.”7
1 These catechetical principals are identified in “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America,” 25. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 100. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXI, 16 July 1562.
2 GIRM 163.
3 Redemptionis Sacramentum, 102.
4 Redemptionis Sacramentum, 102.
5 Redemptionis Sacramentum, 102.
6 “Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America,” 24.
7 Redemptionis Sacramentum, 102.
My impression is that, all along, Bp. Olmsted was trying to make sure that CUBK was leading to spiritual benefit rather than irreverence, indifference, and even profanation of the Blessed Sacrament. There were missteps on the part of the diocese in the process of developing and issuing the norms and there was obtuse mean-spiritedness in the press on the part of those who attacked him.
In the balance, however, both the missteps and the final outcome have served to underscore that our reception of Holy Communion has conditions and there are norms which regulate what we do. We must obey the norms and strive to fulfill the conditions in order to receive the graces Christ extends to us, and to avoid scandal which undermines the faith others have.